I first ran the Barking ELVIS back in 2016. My running was ‘okay’ back then (far from perfect, but I still managed 18:11). I had a very disappointing start to the year, dropping out of quite a few big races (The Big Half comes to mind), and then had a very frustrating time in mid-May when I couldn’t even break a sub-20 5k and got a hugely disappointing PW since 2015 of 42:00 for the Vitality 10k. I knew something had to be done, so started to focus of speed-work, going to parkrun consistency every week to push myself for a timed 5k, and waking up pre-6am before work to get some quality training in. I have also frequently been running twice/day. Weekly mileage has still been pretty low (in comparison to what I used to do a few years ago) but I was still running around 50-55km/week for the past 8-10 weeks or so. My main aim for the Barking ELVIS was to run it in sub-18.
I arrived in Barking park ahead of time and engaged in a warm-up consisting of an 800m run and various stretches, with a few strides. I saw some friendly faces at the ELR gazebo and we then made our way to the start-line. It was a very congested start, and I lost a few seconds as I crossed the start line. I had to go to the side and speed off a little to get ahead. I managed to get into a clearer zone around 200-300m in, and checked my watch for the pace. I was on for the first kilometre in 3:16 which was way too fast! Although I felt good, this was clearly not a sustainable pace. I slowed down ever so slightly, and pushed on. By this point I saw runners like Mark Boulton overtake me, and I knew that was no bad thing, as these were clearly sub-17 guys. I then saw Russell Price creep up on me. I finished the first kilometre in 3:24. My mouth got quite dry, but I felt in control after this. I tried to hold on to Russell, who was now a few yards in front. The second kilometre was done in 3:37, and then the third in 3:37- still on target for my sub-18 goal.
By the time I was on the second lap, I then managed to pass Patrick Brown, which was a huge surprise as I know that he is a very fast runner. The fourth kilometre back along the river was tough, with a headwind which slowed my pace and the forth kilometre was finished in 3:54, which is very slow for my goal today. Once I was back into the park though, I powered through on the final kilometre. I tried to pick-up the pace with around 400m to go, but it was too early. I sped up, then slowed down just as I approached the home stretch and 2 or 3 guys overtook me (including Dan Gritton). But I then somehow managed to find a little energy, and with the finish line in sight gave my strides a kick and overtook these guys once again, apart from Dan who had bridged the gap too much for me.
I finally crossed the finish line and checked my Garmin which showed 17:49. Job done! (Official time was 17:50 in 15th place). It was a hard finish. I then had a few handshakes with some fellow runners before seeing Sania. We had a chat with some more ELRs before heading back to the car and going to Costa for some well deserved coffee and food. I’m pretty pleased with today’s performance. If it wasn’t windy, I am sure my time could have been slightly quicker, but this is still a very welcome PB and something I hope I can work on. My aim is to better this time at the Valentines ELVIS 5k in September. Training for now is also going to be focused on Royal Parks Half. Based on that time, I will have a good idea of where I am back to with my running form. As always, watch this space! ✌🏼